Critics’ Picks

Piquet de grève (Picket Sign), 2004. Installation view.

Piquet de grève (Picket Sign), 2004. Installation view.

New York

Annette Messager

Marian Goodman Gallery | New York
24 West 57th Street
May 6–June 12, 2004

In the back of the Marian Goodman Gallery—which is offering this Annette Messager appetizer on the occasion of the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris’s large-scale exhibition—a picket sign propped against a wall sets the tone: “Spectacle annulé” (Show cancelled). At first glance, you almost believe it. The gallery contains only a few relics, costumes, and accessories, scattered on the floor and arrayed on the walls. Crumpled and misshapen rag dolls, mysteriously given to sudden convulsive movements, face a few stillborn effigies impaled on Messager’s famous pikes; an abstract, chiaroscuro landscape is inspired by Rorschach blots. On the lower level, in a self-mockingly morbid arrangement, a stuffed kitten on a ragged pillow seems to survey its treasure: a pile of long-tailed rats. A trove of stuffed animals collected at carnivals are arranged to spell out the word “rumeur” (rumor). In the end, the artist’s intentions remain as cryptic as ever, but her frenzied yet finely calibrated theatricalizations continue to seduce. Welcome to the society of the spectacle.

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman.